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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Hiking Footwear

Go with lightweight, comfortable shoes to keep you energized and ready to take photos on those long, rewarding summer hikes

Labels: GearFootwearHiking

You know the routine. Hike all day in "state-of-the-art" waterproof leather trekking boots carrying a "state-of-the-art" backpack filled with 60 pounds of "state-of-the-art" equipment. Arrive in camp. What are your first three tasks? Get rid of the pack ("thud"), remove your boots ("ahhh") and pop a few ibuprofen ("unnngghh"). The rest of the night is spent in recovery. You'll take photos tomorrow.

There's no single piece of backpacking equipment so adored and loathed by hikers as their trekking boots. Adoration most often reaches its peak when trying them on in the store. Loathing tends to be directly proportional to pack weight and mileage traveled.

Traditional backpacking footwear ("trekking boots") is defined by the mid- to high-cuff leather, synthetic leather or otherwise waterproof boot. Trekking boots have stiff soles that are resistant to flex, weigh more than four pounds per pair and have nonpliable uppers that won't mold to the shape of your foot without an extensive break-in period.

The primary advantage of trekking boots is their durability (my trekking boots are so uncomfortable that they last for years because I won't wear them!). However, the perception that "bomber durability" equates to "performance in rugged terrain" has now been challenged enough in the backpacking community that traditional beliefs about the utility of trekking boots for backpacking are now crumbling.

The Trekking Boot Problem
A plethora of disadvantages of using trekking boots has been discovered by backpackers (especially, long-distance and expedition trekkers) in recent years.

Trekking boots are bulky and heavy. They require more energy for careful foot placement on rough terrain (tripping and stumbling are more common among boot-clad trekkers). Also, trekking boots require more energy simply to lift them up with every step: Weight carried on the feet requires disproportionately more energy to propel than weight carried on the torso (most scientific studies claim between four and seven times more!).

Trekking boots (because of their waterproof construction) don't breathe well. Consequently, the warm and moist environment inside a boot predisposes the hiker to a host of foot problems, including blisters, fungal infections and outrageously stinky feet.

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